Courts in the Classroom
Supreme Court of Indiana
Division of State Court Administration
30 S. Meridian Street, Ste 500
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dr. Elizabeth R. Osborn
Court History and
Public Education Programs
2011 Outstanding Public
History Project Award
from the National Council
on Public History
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
By ERICA PEREZ
The Orange County Register
Sylvia Mendez was 8 years old when she was denied entrance into 17th Street School in Westminster because of her Mexican surname.
Her parents took the district to court, resulting in a legal battle that ended segregation in Orange County in 1946, eight years before Brown v. Board of Education would do the same for the United States as a whole.
Now, 8-year-olds can read about Mendez in a new children's book by local authors, "Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children – An American Civil Rights Victory."
Co-authors Michael Matsuda and Sandra Robbie said the book will help local students understand the legacy behind their rights to equal educational access.
"All my history books growing up always talked about the segregation that was going on in the American south," said co-author Sandra Robbie.
"To discover that segregation happened here, and that Orange County had a role in helping to make Brown v. Board of Education come about … I think that's something that everybody needs to know."
Robbie answered a few questions about the origins of the book and education in Orange County 60 years after the case.
Q: How did you get interested in the Mendez case?
A: I learned about it in an article in the Register about 10 years ago … about the Mendez school that was going to be built. I grew up in Westminster, and I was sitting in my mom's kitchen … and I remember the walls spinning around me when I learned about it. It absolutely changed my perspective on life.
Q: Why did you think it was important to create a children's book about this case?
A: Sylvia Mendez was 8 years old when the case started, and I think that it's important for young children to be aware of the way things had been and still could be if we don't pay attention. I think it's important for them to know that people fought for them to have the education they have today because they believed in them before they were even born.
Q: This case made it possible for schools to be ethnically mixed, but now many schools are predominantly Latino. What's your take on that?
A: One of the hard truths is that people are more comfortable around other people who are like them. So it takes a conscious effort for people to build a bridge and learn about others. I think that's really what I learned when I heard about Mendez.
AUTHORS: Michael Matsuda and Sandra Robbie are the co-authors of the children's book "Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children – An American Civil Rights Victory," the story of school desegregation.
ROSE PALMISANO, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Residence: North Tustin
Occupation: Development and community outreach liaison at KOCE-TV; producer of the documentary "Mendez v. Westminster: For All the Children/Para Todos Los Niños."
Residence: Yorba Linda
Occupation:Trustee, North Orange County Community College District; teacher on special assignment, Anaheim Union High School District; co-author with his son, Ethan, of children's book, "The North Pole Is Sinking!"
Sept. 30: Book signing at the Orange County Children's Book Festival at Orange Coast College. Information: 714-432-0202
Oct. 7: Book signing at Mendez Fundamental Intermediate, 2000 N. Bristol St., Santa Ana. Information: 714-972-7800.
The book is available at Librería Martínez, 1110 N. Main St., Santa Ana.